Giardia is a nasty parasite that can find its way into your dog or cat’s intestine. Giardia can be dangerous for pets, but with some tips and tricks, you should be able to help your pet avoid it. As always, make sure you contact your veterinarian if you notice your pet has diarrhea or has been vomiting for 24 hours.

What is Giardia

Giardia is an intestinal disease that affects animals and humans. Giardia often lives inside cysts in contaminated water, soil, or infected fur on animals for months. When pets accidentally consume the cyst, it breaks open to release two swimming trophozoites. These trophozoites rent space in the intestines by attaching themselves with little suction cups. Here they affect the absorption of nutrients and water from the bowel into the body and set up an ugly inflammation process known as enteritis. Because of the enteritis, the host animal develops severe diarrhea.

Dogs and cats can get Giardia by drinking water that has been contaminated by feces or by eating something that has been contaminated by feces, like grass. Once the parasite is in a pet’s intestines, it can spread the parasite even if they aren’t showing signs of infections. Transmission from dogs to cats and cats to dogs is unlikely however, transmission from dog to dog is possible.

Animals are more susceptible to infection when they are subject to over-crowding in poorly run kennel situations, other disease processes, and general stress. Since puppies and kittens have immature immune systems, they are at greater risk for clinical disease.

Symptoms of Giardia in dogs

Giardia has several symptoms that you should be aware of, but the best way to determine whether your pet has Giardia, or any other condition is to call your vet.

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Poor coat appearance

Preventing Giardia in dogs

You can’t always control every aspect of your dog’s environment, but there are some things owners can do to prevent Giardia in dogs.
  • Stay up to date with your dog’s monthly flea, tick and heartworm medication
  • Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water always
  • Pay attention to general hygiene
  • Pick up after your dog as soon as possible
  • Stop your dog from eating feces

Treating Giardia

  1. Treatment is usually straightforward in healthy animals. Two different medications are commonly used to treat the infection. In some pets, the inflammatory nature of the disease leads to chronic symptoms that require additional enteritis therapy.
  2. Clean up after your dog regularly and wash your hands. Routine hand sanitizer does not kill Giardia, so thorough hand washing after disposing of poop is important for this and other parasites. Animals should be bathed at the end of any course of treatment.
  3. Giardia cysts are killed by freezing temperatures and direct sunlight. If you have concerns about a kennel or garage area, ask your veterinarian about cleaning products effective for killing the cysts in your home environment.

Don’t ignore pet diarrhea

Dogs and cats are resilient critters when it comes to exposure to different types of germs. Follow your vet’s recommendations for routine fecal testing and parasite control; and let the vet staff know if your pet has signs of diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours.

Pet insurance can help with preventative wellness care

If you notice signs or symptoms that your pet may be infected by an internal or external parasite, contact your veterinarian about a treatment plan.

Petsecure can help with the cost of treatment and medications. We help cover annual exam vaccinations, routine blood exams, wellness urinalysis exams, flea control medications, heartworm testing and diagnosis, preventative medications, and more under select plans. Learn what’s covered by Petsecure and get a free quote today.